Sporting KC Downed in Rivalry Clash with Real Salt Lake

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Sporting KC
SANDY UT- JULY 17: Pregame activities before the International friendly game between Manchester United and Real Salt Lake were delayed due to inclement weather, which featured a double rainbow, at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 17, 2017 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

SANDY, Utah. – Looking to end June undefeated in MLS play, Sporting KC produced a disjointed performance on Saturday night, falling to Real Salt Lake 2-0. In one of MLS’s most underrated rivalries, a sloppy defensive effort by Sporting from the first whistle let down what could have been an intense night under the lights.

Sporting KC drop Rivalry Match against Real Salt Lake

Sam Johnson picked up a pair of first half goals, punishing poor defending from Sporting KC. His first came just 15 minutes into the game off Salt Lake’s only corner of the first half. Creating separation between himself and Gedion Zelalem, the Sporting KC midfielder failed to close that space, allowing Johnson to poke the ball home from close range.

Johnson then doubled the lead 13 minutes later following a giveaway from Matt Besler on the halfway line. Passing the ball to no one in particular, Besler’s ball was quickly picked off, leading to a 4v1 that was eventually put past Tim Melia by Johnson to make it 2-0.

Sporting KC looked to bring a little bit of life back into the game in the second half but put in another poor 45 minutes. The only ball to enter the back of the net was from Damir Kreilich in the 84th minute, but it was ruled out for offside.

Sporting KC look to bounce back against LAFC on Wednesday night at Children’s Mercy Park, the first league game Sporting KC will play at home since May 29.

Shaky substitutes

Peter Vermes isn’t known for his early substitutes, but he opted for a pair of early ones on Saturday night. Replacing Krisztian Nemeth with Yohan Croizet at halftime, it looked like Vermes was looking to tighten up the front three, bringing Gerso and Daniel Salloi more into the game as Croizet dropped into a false nine role. But unlike previous games in which the tactic worked, Sporting KC failed to produce any sort of serious offense.

Andreu Fontas also replaced Botand Barath midway through the second half after Barath was run ragged by sloppy defending from his defensive partner, Besler. Barath was probably the most solid defender on the night for Sporting KC, but simply couldn’t go more than 60 minutes.

Benny Feilhaber was the final sub, replacing Ilie, creating a bizarre situation. Feilhaber earned a yellow card for stepping on the field as a substitute, before replacing Ilie who was also on a yellow card. The substitute meant that a yellow carded player was replacing another yellow carded player, with the only purpose for the substitute to shore up a more offensive presence.

Tough night for the captain

Matt Besler was perhaps one of the worst on the field in the Rio Tinto Stadium. Directly responsible for Real Salt Lake’s second goal with the giveaway as the last man, Matt’s younger brother Nick Besler — who didn’t even get on the field — can hold his head higher than Matt.

It wasn’t just the giveaway that tainted Besler’s night, either. The captain had several easy misplaced passes throughout the night and almost put the ball in his own net near the end of the game. Overall, for a man who put out a heartfelt letter to fans just mere weeks ago, it was an uninspiring performance.

Injury list grows again

Just when the injury list was beginning to look reasonable again for Sporting KC, the injury bug has struck again for Vermes’ men. Graham Zusi, Gianluca Busio, Jimmy Medranda and Johnny Russell all added their names to the injury list, bringing it back up to eight players.

“If you don’t have players available because they’re injured and you have other players available, other players have got to step up and start playing and it’s got to be consistent, and right now it’s not,” Vermes said following the game on Fox Sports Kansas City.

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